Dog Temperament Assessment Checklist

Stable Dogs Socializing
Stable Dogs Socializing

This temperament assessment checklist is meant to help a canine professional behaviorist (NOT the owner) fairly evaluate your dog through a series of interactions on lead. The items are not an all-inclusive temperament list, but will give you a good starting point to benchmark. The measurements are not pass/fail, but instead real life and fair showing strong and weak points.

Contact the Austin Dog Whisperer for help with "Needs Work" or "Red Zone."

1. Human Confidently Presents Self as Authority Figure

Boxed type setting with human walking towards dog and backing him up. Creates confrontation the dog will probably experience for the first time in his/her life. Behaviorist uses body language and energy to present self as dominant leader who is there to help, means no harm but is most certainly the dominant of the two.


Calm submissive surrender. Responds in a soft, friendly and relaxed manner with respectful obedience. Typically goes into a Sit or Down with eye contact to the handler which asks, "What would you like me to do next?"

Needs Work 

Body language overly excited or cautious, tense, still. Fearful flight if not on leash. OR avoidance with no aggression. OR defensive reaction with lunging but then quickly pulling back with no eye contact.

Red Zone 

Stiff frozen posture/body. Growling, snarling, teeth baring, hackles raised, eyes glaring at human's face. Lunges to attack and harm if confrontation continues. OR rock bottom fearful, submissive. If not on lead would try to flee, disappear, run away.

2. Toy Possession

Using toy or ball with rope attached to one end, engage dog and then begin pulling back on rope to remove toy/ball.


Gives up easily. Playful attitude. May have slight resistance to toy removal but gives in with slight correction, showing no interest in toy.

Needs Work 

Possessive over toy. Strong resistance but no aggression. Threatens to keep toy but doesn't follow through, or attempts to move toy out of human's reach until reaches end of string. Playful vocal noise and engagement.

Red Zone 

May growl, freeze, snap when human retracts toy. Becomes aggressive with intent to inflict injury and harm on human, will do so if human not protected.

3. Human Touch and Handling


Softens with petting, engages petter. Licks, muzzles, seeks attention, rolls onto back. OR remains neutral, may move slightly away. OR accepts but does not seek additional contact.

Needs Work 

Gets over-stimulated, mouthy, placing paws on human. OR becomes skittish and avoidant particularly with hind quarter and tail sensitivity. OR is actively avoidant, extremely stiff or overly jumpy.

Red Zone 

Aggresses with follow-through intent to harm and injure human handler.

4. Food Possession

Engage by offering bacon shaped type treat and allow dog to take it. Repeat but gently pull back and remove treat as dog begins to bite. Then drop treat on ground, cover with foot when dog sees it and starts going to it. Lastly, when dog is eating treat, mildy touch/handle dog's body, and then remove what is left of the treat from the dog's mouth.


Indifferent or friendly. OR confused (looks up at human for instructions on what happens next).

Needs Work

Vocal low growling type noises, hoards, threatens to retain but doesn't follow through. May paw at treat, get pushy for it, follow through by overly focusing on treat and refusing to look at human.

Red Zone 

Aggresses with follow through intent to harm and injure the handler.

5. Reaction to Correction Outdoors on Leash

Walk dog near other people and distractions. Also let him sniff or become interested in something near for a few minutes. Then give a slight tug on the leash as a correction to re-gain dog's attention and focus on you. Do not use voice, just body energy to communicate.


Easily and compliantly responds to handler. OR may be slow to respond but follows direction with increased correction intensity or alternate type of correction.

Needs Work

Eventually responds but takes multiple repeat corrections. OR unresponsive/ignores corrections and continues. OR drops in fear in a defensive posture. OR stubbornly fights correction.

Red Zone

Redirects aggressively towards handler. Attempts to bite and attack, will inflict harm to handler if given the chance.

6. Dominance with People

Repeat #1 approach from above. Then push down on dog's shoulders using hands or forearm. Maintain pressure for a moment. Handler uses body language and calm assertive energy but no voice.


Melts under slight pressure, is submissive.

Needs Work 

Remains unresponsive but neutral. OR stiffens up. May turn strongly to handler, feels uncomfortable with situation.

Red Zone 

Growls and/or snaps at handler in a dominant manner. OR aggresses on human with clear intent to inflict harm and injury.

7. Other Dog Introductions

First introduce through a fence or at a distance. Then by walking by a stable dog a few times. Then allow a greeting using a slack leash; permit sniffing for a few seconds, then separate and re-introduce. Human silence throughout.


Interested in and social towards other dog. Soft, relaxed body language. May approach neutrally or playfully (play bow).

Needs Work 

Uninterested and aloof, not engaging other dog. OR rude interaction, posturing, vocal. Possible growling, slight lunging, hackles up but becomes controllable with correction.

Red Zone 

Offensive or harmful injurious aggression to other dog, and quite possibly the handler as well.

8. Other Dog Food Issues

Introduce another dog into the immediate but not reachable vicinity. Offer other dog treat while ignoring test dog. Bring dogs close together and drop treats for both.


Ignores treats while other dog eats. Does not interfere when other dog is eating. Takes treats at same time from ground, is not forceful.

Needs Work    

Is dominant. Threatens to keep own treats plus push other dog for his treats as well with bullying just short of attacking. May growl, posture, or guard in a dominant, threatening manner.

Red Zone    

Aggresses on other dog to keep or obtain treats. Growls, postures, attacks. May aggress towards handler as well with intent to harm and injure.

9. Conclusion - Overall Temperament

General picture and observations of proefssional behaviorist's experience with the dog during interactions.


Happy-go-lucky, calm, stable, relaxed, friendly, easy to handle. No signs of stress. Not an attention seeker, remains neutral.

Needs Work  

Cautious, slow to engage. May show signs of stress. Pushy, unresponsive, challenging, and/or disrespectful. May be jumping on handler, mouthy, barky, dominant.

Red Zone 

Aggressively interacts with and pursues handler and/or other dog(s) with clear intent to harm given the chance. OR is rock bottom from crushing fear - checked out, shaking, wanting to hide/disappear, avoiding interaction.

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